Welcome to the very first set of Player Meters for 2019! As a quick refresher, every week I bring you a quick review full of small sample size fun—for both the Mets’ position players and the Mets’ pitchers—of who is hot, who is not, and who is poop over the course of the season.
The best tl;dr summary of the Mets’ pitching these first two weeks has been that Noah Syndergaard is good, Jacob deGrom is very good, the back end of the bullpen is solid, and the rest leaves a lot to be desired. However, there is slightly more to it than that, so let’s take a look at each pitcher’s individual performance.
I am giving Drew Smith a quick shoutout here because his 2019 season came to an unfortunate end in spring training when it was revealed that he would undergo Tommy John surgery. If this did not come to pass, the likelihood is quite high that Smith would have been on the Mets rather than Tim Peterson, but Peterson’s strong spring landed him the final spot in the bullpen.
Peterson had been doing pretty well for himself until yesterday. Then again, Mets pitching as a unit did very little to distinguish themselves yesterday, surrendering twelve walks in all to the Nationals. Peterson was one of the culprits, responsible for five of those twelve walks in just 1 1⁄3 innings of work. Having not surrendered a run in his previous two appearances on Monday and Thursday, he gave up two runs yesterday.
Zack Wheeler started yesterday’s game and struggled mightily, walking seven batters and tossing over 100 pitches in 4 2⁄3 innings. He gave up only four hits, but was tagged for seven runs and his season ERA stands at an ugly 10.24. Wheeler was obviously upset with himself after the start, but insists he was simply “a little off mechanically” and still feels good to start the year. His first outing of the season was better, but not by a lot. He tossed five innings against the Nationals and gave up six hits and four runs. His strikeout to walk ratio was much better in his first start, however; he fanned seven batters and walked just one. Wheeler running up high pitch counts early is a problem that has plagued him throughout his career and part of his renaissance in the second half last year was being able to pitch deeper into games. The Mets certainly hope he can figure it out and get back to doing that soon.
Wheeler and Peterson were not the only pitchers to get punished by the Nationals yesterday. Luis Avilan had his second poor outing in a row, allowing two runners to reach base and then surrendering a three-run homer to Anthony Rendon in the seventh. After Avilan tossed one scoreless inning on Wednesday, Mickey Callway tried to save the rest of the bullpen by trying to push the left-handed specialist for a second inning. This proved to be a poor strategy and Avilan gave up three runs without retiring a batter and Callway was ultimately forced to use Edwin Diaz to lock down the win. However, when used primarily in his LOOGY role, there is no reason so far to think that Avilan can’t be successful moving forward.
Now that we’ve got some of the ugliness out of the way, let’s lighten the mood by talking about Jacob deGrom, shall we? Is it out of control to give him a fireball already for the first pitcher meter of the season? I don’t think so. The man has yet to surrender a run and for a nice change of pace, he’s gotten the win in both games he’s pitched so far. His Opening Day start was vintage deGrom. He didn’t have his best stuff, but he battled. And he still struck out ten batters anyway. And in his second start, he put on the kind of show that we have come to take for granted every fifth day. He struck out a career-high fourteen batters. Tomorrow, he looks to break Bob Gibson’s record for consecutive quality starts.
Both of Jacob deGrom’s wins were also saves notched by Edwin Diaz, the other bright spot on the pitching staff so far. Diaz has been as advertised. He already has four saves in four attempts. He has struck out five batters in 3 2⁄3 innings. On Monday, he loaded the bases and then struck out three straight batters to end the game. He is the only other pitcher on the staff besides deGrom that has yet to allow a run.
Meanwhile, Jeurys Familia had been performing exceptionally well in his new setup role until his most recent outing. He did not allow a run in his first four appearances, but that came crashing down in Saturday’s back-and-forth contest with the Nationals when he ended the threat in the seventh inning, but came back out for the eighth and allowed three runs on two home runs. Luckily, the Mets came back to win the game, gifting Familia with a win, his second of the season.
Justin Wilson has also proven to be a solid addition to the back-end of the Mets bullpen so far this season. He has posted a 1.59 ERA over 5 2⁄3 innings so far this season with five strikeouts. So far, the only blemish on his record is surrendering the walk-off home run to Trea Turner in the finale of the opening series with the Nationals. He is the only reliever other than Diaz to earn a save thus far this season. He got the final two outs of the eighth inning and notched a scoreless ninth in Tuesday’s 6-5 victory over the Marlins.
Wilson had to bail out Seth Lugo, who has had a rough time of things lately. Lugo looked okay in the opening series—although he was perhaps used inappropriately by Mickey Callaway—but has struggled since. Lugo gave up three runs on five hits on Tuesday, almost allowing the Marlins to come back to win the game. Even more troubling, his velocity was down. It was subsequently revealed that Lugo was feeling a bit under the weather. Two days later, Lugo was back out there in the Mets’ home opener and struggled again, surrendering two runs and retiring just one batter. However, he got three days off and seemed to bounce back yesterday, striking out the side in the ninth inning.
Robert Gsellman also pitched a scoreless inning yesterday, bouncing back from some earlier struggles. His performance has been uneven so far this season. He has given up a run in three of his five appearances this year. Even though Avilan was responsible for most of the Marlins’ almost-comeback on Wednesday, it was really Gsellman that forced Callaway to bring Diaz into the game by failing to put the ninth inning to bed after inheriting Avilan’s mess. Gsellman was also responsible for one of the Nationals’ runs on Saturday, when they manufactured a run from a double and two groundouts. But Gsellman also earned a hold for his performance on Tuesday, tossing a scoreless sixth inning.
Jason Vargas started Tuesday’s game and earned his first win of the season. The Mets staked an early 5-1 lead in a game that ended up a lot more dicey than it should have, but the results were there for Vargas. The final pitching line is about what one would expect from a Vargas start—eight hits and two runs over five innings. However, his actual performance was worse than his line would indicate and he was hit extremely hard early, aided by the cavernous Marlins Park, where the Marlins hit several balls to the warning track against him. The Mets have skipped Vargas’ start this time through the rotation, as deGrom will pitch tomorrow.
Steven Matz has failed to go deep into games so far this year, failing to get to six innings in either of his first two starts. That said, even though he has run up his pitch count and gotten himself into some jams, he has limited the damage. He has only given up one run so far this season and struck out eight batters in his most recent start on Saturday. Given Vargas’ propensity to also not pitch deep into games, the Mets have elected to break up the two lefties in the rotation, putting Zack Wheeler between them. The Mets are going to need more length out of the likes of Wheeler and Matz if they are going to be successful this year.
Noah Syndergaard pitched much better in the Mets’ home opener on Thursday than he did in his first start against the Nationals in DC. However, the Mets were held scoreless by a strong performance by Stephen Strasburg, tagging Syndergaard with the loss on Thursday, despite only allowing two runs over six innings of work. Syndergaard walked two and struck out six in the loss. The Mets won Syndergaard’s first start—the second game of the season—when he gave up four runs on seven hits in six innings of work. Luckily, the Mets’ bats came to play that day and late-inning rallies lifted the Mets to an 11-8 victory. While Syndergaard has been doing better in the early going to elevate his fastball in the zone—a page out of deGrom’s book—he doesn’t quite feel confident in his secondaries yet. “The slider is not where I want to be yet,” he said after his most recent start. “The curve is my fourth best pitch right now. I’m trying to get it back to where it was last year and in years past.” There is no question that if he can do that, the pairing with his high-octane fastball make him a top pitcher in the major leagues.